For Pelicans, 2014’s already been a long year
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
In a league ravaged by injuries, the New Orleans Pelicans are far from the only NBA team currently missing key players. In a brutal Western Conference that’s ultra-competitive from top to bottom, the Pelicans aren’t the only squad in the midst of a vicious stretch of their schedule. Amid a frigid winter across the nation, the Pelicans aren’t the only club that’s faced travel nightmares during the early part of January.
But they just might be the only NBA franchise to encounter all three, in just the first two weeks of the New Year.
As fourth-year head coach Monty Williams is often quick to point out, none of the obstacles the Pelicans are currently dealing with should be described in tragic terms. Within the context of professional sports, however, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more difficult two-week stretch than what Williams’ team has experienced early in 2014.
When the calendar flipped from 2013, the Pelicans appeared to be on the verge of making a run at the postseason, with a roster that finally seemed healthy. They were coming off an impressive Dec. 30 victory vs. Portland, which pulled them within a game of .500.
In case you’ve missed it, here’s what’s happened since, in what’s already been a cruel ’14 for 15-22 New Orleans:
Jan. 1 at Minnesota
In an ultra-early bad omen for 2014, on New Year’s Day the Pelicans trail by as many as 30 points before losing 124-112 to the Timberwolves. || Recap | Photos | Highlights
The team is forced to abruptly cancel practice in Minneapolis and leave the Gopher State a few hours ahead of schedule, in order to get to Boston before a major snowstorm hits the Northeast.
Jan. 3 at Boston
The Pelicans’ only victory of January so far is much more bitter than sweet, after Ryan Anderson is taken from the court on a stretcher and transported to a Boston hospital following an accidental collision with Celtics forward Gerald Wallace. Anderson spends the next several days in Massachusetts, recovering from what’s diagnosed as a herniated disc injury. || Recap | Photos | Highlights
Due to a blizzard that strikes Indianapolis in the early hours of Jan. 5, the Pelicans can’t leave as planned for Miami. The team is stuck in a near-deserted Indianapolis airport for a total of about 15 hours over two days, before finally departing for Florida at 8:15 p.m. on Jan. 6. || Stuck in Indy
Jan. 7 at Miami
After getting in to Miami around 11:30 p.m. the night before, the entire team has to stay up late in order to eat something before finally falling asleep. Like the Pacers, the two-time NBA defending champion Heat trail the Pelicans at halftime, but gain their footing in the second half for a 107-88 victory. Afterward, a TSA snafu delays the team’s departure to the Miami airport, making it another delayed arrival back home to New Orleans. || Recap | Photos | Highlights
After experiencing persistent pain in his right shin, Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday decides to get the issue examined by team doctors. They discover that Holiday has a stress fracture in his tibia. The 2013 All-Star point guard is out indefinitely with the injury. || Holiday Speaks
Jan. 10 vs. Dallas
The Mavericks post a comfortable 107-90 win over the Pelicans, who play the entire second half without sixth-man catalyst Tyreke Evans. Evans is sidelined with a left ankle injury, the same ailment that has hampered him periodically since preseason. The team’s fifth-leading scorer misses the next two games. He is listed as day-to-day. || Recap | Photos | Highlights
Jan. 11 at Dallas
In a nail-biter, Pelicans second-year guard Austin Rivers tries to attempt a potential game-tying three-point shot just before the buzzer, but is grabbed across both arms by Mavericks defender Monta Ellis. The NBA later acknowledges that game officials missed a foul call on Ellis, saying that Rivers should have been awarded three free throws. New Orleans loses 110-107. || Recap | Photos | Highlights | League Acknowledges Missed Call
Jan. 13 vs. San Antonio
It's a second straight narrow defeat for the Pelicans, this time 101-95 to the Spurs. During a pregame press conference, Anderson tells local media that the progress of healing from his injury will be evaluated by doctors in about two months, raising the possibility that the team’s leading scorer (19.8 points per game) won’t play again in 2013-14. || Recap | Photos | Highlights